Advocates, The following is the first edition of (and the inspiration for) a new section of GLAHNews. This section will be reserved for ~ 200 word vignettes of local issues in the GLB. We want to celebrate and recognize the day-to-day struggles we’re all fighting with anecdotes from local advocates – YOU! Please send your story to firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d love to hear a) your local success and b) what we should call this column (!).
Dear GLAHNF, What I find could add to your mission of the newsletter are some of the smaller ‘brush fires’ I am sure play out daily around the lakes. This came to mind when I attended a grassroots initiated meeting to stop the development of a skateboard park at the Col. Sam Smith Park here in Toronto’s west end. The decision where to site this concrete skateboard facility was made behind closed doors between the city council member Mark Grimes and the city planning people. Many people had fought successfully to have Sam Smith as a natural park, a serene sanctuary for wildlife and native plants which included a wetland area. The proposed skateboard facility would virtually abut to the wetlands and threatened the basic intent and design of the park. It appears the community including the skateboarders themselves rallied against the whole process (but not the skateboard park itself, just the location) and it probably will not be built on this sensitive area. Little news flashes like this probably occur daily around the lakes. Perhaps a column dedicated to little vignettes on these lesser issues would be welcome to GLAH readers. It would also be welcome support to those front line troops who take on issues like this and fight doggedly to prevent them impacting the local environment – which added up makes an important contribution to preserving the Great Lakes environment, flora and fauna. Regards, W. R. (Bil) Thuma, Geophysicist Consultant, International Marketing Geotec/Plus Ultra Toronto, Ontario
By Vince Agnello, Residents for Responsible Government
Residents for Responsible Government, Inc, based in the northwest corner of New York State, were appalled when Governor Pataki recently vetoed the Great Lakes (Water Quality) Systems Protection Bill (A-11713). This was a “missed opportunity,” stated RRG’s President Vince Agnello, “a last chance to leave office with a legacy of truly being an environmental governor.” Pataki signed two related bills, one to establish a New York Ocean and Great Lakes Ecosystem Conservation Council.
“The purpose of all three bills was to protect our Great Lakes watershed and the millions of people who depend on that water, both sides of the border,” explained Bill Choboy, RRG legislative liaison. The vetoed bill would have protected the Great Lakes System from the potential of leaking commercial hazardous waste landfills. Niagara County has the northeast’s only commercial hazardous waste facility, and it can take over 400,000 tons annually, which it currently receives from 30 states, Canada and off shore. It is only two miles from Lake Ontario and the Niagara River, and a mile from a school with 3,000 students and staff.
RRG has built a credible community response to the activities of Chemical Waste Management’s 700 acre site, with water sampling, legal actions and public awareness. Recently, RRG sponsored a strategy session, drawing state and local legislators, many residents and environmental groups from across the state. Both state legislators, who sponsored the bill in Albany, after it was initiated and unanimously passed by the Niagara County legislature, were on-hand to discuss various options.
At the meeting the group strongly agreed on the need to get more details out – around the state, throughout the Great Lakes states, and to build a strong Canadian connection – and asked RRG to take the lead. At this point, a concentrated effort is unfolding to get broader media coverage on water quality concerns, and to especially collaborate to expand Canadian awareness and support.